Dr Mitchell Gaynor: Getting to the Root Cause of Cancer
Mitchell Gaynor, M.D. is Founder and President of Gaynor Integrative Oncology, Assistant Attending Physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Weill Medical College. He has held the position of Director of Medical Oncology at The Strang Cancer Prevention Center where he still serves as a consultant. He is also former Medical Director and Director of Medical Oncology at the Weill Cornell Medical Center Institute for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. He has served on the Executive Review Panel at the Department of Defense – Alternative Medicine for Breast Cancer Sector and the Smithsonian Institute’s Symposium on New Frontier in Breast Cancer and the Environment. He is a frequent speaker and lecturer at hospitals, conferences, and universities throughout America and abroad. He conducts on-going healing sessions for patients and families using meditation and chanting with Tibetan bowls. Dr. Gaynor is also the best selling author of four books and a CD focusing on healing, health and the environment and cancer prevention.
Transcription of Interview
Elyn: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Survive and Live Well -- Tips to Treat and Beat Cancer. As always, my goal is to empower you with information to help you regain control of your health. Does food really matter when it comes to cancer? You bet it does! There are things we can do to change our internal environment to one less hospitable to cancer and to boost the efficacy of treatment and mitigate the side effects. The goal is to heal and to reduce the opportunity of recurrence or new cancers and -- that is right -- to survive and live well. Yes, food as medicine is a key player.
So I am sitting here today with Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, founder and president of Gaynor Integrative Oncology here in New York. Dr. Gaynor is author of four best-sellers focusing on healing, health and the environment, and cancer prevention. Dr. Gaynor is also a long time promoter of the healing power of sound. One of his inspirational books,The Healing Power of Sound, offers techniques to access deep states of relaxation and awareness, and to promote health, not disease. He is deeply involved with integrative solutions for cancer, has been implementing sound and music therapy as part of his treatment protocol for over 25 years, and has produced several healing CDs. This past summer, Dr. Gaynor’s newest release, “Change your Mind: Music for Brainwave Entrainment” debuted at # 1 on the Billboard’s New Age Albums Chart. The album also topped Amazon and iTunes New Age Chart.
But most of all Dr. Gaynor believes that there are concrete steps that can be taken to lower the risk of cancer on all levels. He believes we can create a healing environment that reduces the use of toxins, promotes healthier nutrition and detoxification, and enhances immunity. Even if we are over-exposed to environmental toxins, and even if we have unfavorable genes, there are still nutritional modalities, stress reduction, and things that cause epigenetic changes that will help offset these conditions. So with great pleasure, I welcome Dr. Mitch Gaynor to today’s show. So nice to have you here, Dr. Gaynor.
Dr. Gaynor: Great to be with you, Elyn.
Eyn: Thanks for joining us here. So, Dr. Gaynor, if you follow the media you could easily conclude that with early diagnosis and all of the drug therapies that we are winning this so-called “war on cancer”.... So many cancers are on the rise and so many battles lost. Do you think maybe we are being misled by the media?
Dr. Gaynor: Well, I think that the whole story is not being told, and you know whenever you’re just focusing on the part rather than the whole you tend to draw the wrong conclusions. The fact of the matter is when I started out 25 years ago with my practice and my research, one in three Americans were going to develop cancer, were going to hear the words “you have cancer.” And it was predicted then by the year 2050 that it was going to be one in two Americans, and we’re going to beat that date -- it’s almost one in two right now. So, if that’s not the definition of an epidemic, I don’t know what it is. And if you look at things like from childhood brain tumors to a number of other cancers, there are more of them, and it’s not just early detection that we’re picking those up, there are a number of other factors.
So I think one of the major things I focus on is the fact that really by the time somebody is in their 20’s, they probably have dormant cancer in their body, and we know that from autopsy series of people who have died in auto accidents or wars and they do autopsies of people in their 20’s and they find dormant cancer -- it could be in the thyroid, the breast, the colon, the lung. The fact that it’s dormant but they’re walking around with it... and humans are the most rapidly evolving species on the planet -- we’re exposed to environmental toxins that our grandparents never were -- and so this is just part of what we have to contend with.
And a lot of people feel very helpless because of that. They think “Well, I’ve got the genes I was born with, I am living on this planet, there’s nothing I can do.” But nothing could be further from the truth, because while we can’t control the genes we have, we can control the expression of those genes, and that’s really what I’ve been interested in for more than 25 years. When I was doing my fellowship at Cornell and research at Rockefeller University and looking at nutrient-gene interactions and toxin-gene interactions, I really saw how there were toxins that could turn on genes that could promote cancer, there were different nutrients that could counteract that by turning on genes that would suppress cancer, and so that has been a big part of what I’ve done the last 25 years.
Elyn: So what you’re saying is we have our gene situations or we’re born with our genetic destiny, [and] you say no, it can be changed. What kind of nutrients would you target to change the way our genes behave?
Dr. Gaynor: Well, there are number of things because there are so many different genes that are important in the development of cancer. If you really start to look at some of the most basic things, it’s our detoxification genes. Everybody has genes in every organ in their body. They are most abundant in the liver, called detoxifying genes, and one of them has a very long name -- it’s called Glutathione S-Transferase [GST]. But there is a very nice study done out of John Hopkins by Kathy Helzlsouer several years ago, and she looked at women with and without breast cancer, and she found that women with the lowest levels of the most common detoxifying gene called GST had a four-fold increased risk of developing breast cancer. And numerous studies have supported similar findings of people with low detoxifying enzyme levels in their lungs having an increased risk for lung cancer at an early age. So your detox genes are really your first line of defense against all the residual pesticides, herbicides on foods, a lot of the other pesticides or toxins that are found in water and the air we breathe, like dioxin. So you’ve gotta get rid of these things. These things can get in the body and they can stay there in fat tissue, in breast tissue, other tissues, literally for decades.
So there are number of foods you can eat to increase on a genetic level your body’s production of these detoxifying enzymes and those are things like garlic. There is a nutrient in cruciferous vegetables -- it’s called sulforaphane -- and the cruciferous vegetables are like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage -- that increases on a genetic level the body’s production of detoxifying enzymes. Turmeric, which is what gives curry its yellow color, increases the production of detoxifying enzymes, and omega-3 fatty acids that are found in cold deep water fish as well as flax seed and hemp seed and pumpkin seed -- those will increase the body’s production of detoxifying enzymes. So that’s just one thing.
Then, another very important thing is nutrients that will facilitate any cancer cells you have going back to dormancy, in other words not becoming active. So, my philosophy at Gaynor Integrative Oncology is really two-fold: People are seeing me for prevention and wellness to make sure that any dormant cancer cells in their body stay dormant. If somebody already has an active cancer, then the goal is to make the active cancer cells go back to dormancy, to make the body an inhospitable place for cancer.
So the big difference between a cancer cell and a normal cell is the cancer cell just keeps dividing; it does not die when it gets old. A normal cell, say in the lining of your colon, when it gets old it will die and make room for new cells -- that process of programmed cell death when a cell’s old and it’s already done its work is called apoptosis. So there are a number of nutrients that help cells regain that ability to die, not to keep on dividing, to undergo apoptosis. There are a lot of nutrients for instance in black raspberry. Black raspberries are loaded with nutrients that turn on what we called tumor-suppressor genes that facilitate apoptosis. There are also nutrients in grape skin like resveratrol -- that facilitates apoptosis. I mentioned turmeric for detox earlier -- that is what gives curry its yellow color -- but also that facilitates apoptosis, the normal death of cancer cells. And there are nutrients in soy that facilitate apoptosis. There are nutrients in green tea that facilitate it.
Then one of the other big things that cancer cells are very good at that we want to be able to counteract is angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels. Now you need normal angiogenesis -- if you cut yourself, you need to make new blood vessels to heal; if you have surgery, you need to make new blood vessels. But cancer cells are very good at stealing the blood supply from normal cells and that’s how tumors grow and they spread; that’s a very abnormal type of angiogenesis. And what I mean by that is if you look under the microscope at those blood vessels around cancer it’s really a very dysmorphic irregular array of blood vessels; it’s a completely different process than normal angiogenesis. If you look at normal angiogenesis like after a surgical procedure, it’s a very smooth array of blood vessels, very orderly. So it’s a very different process. There are number of nutrients that will interrupt and interfere with abnormal angiogenesis … so there are a lot of anti-abnormal angiogenetic nutrients like resveratrol [which] can help with that and there are things in coconuts that will interfere with that especially, so I use a lot of coconut milk powder with people -- that helps to interfere with that. There’s a nutrient in magnolia called honokiol that can interfere with abnormal angiogenesis and ... in milk thistle that interferes with it, and in beets that can interfere with it, so it is really a very comprehensive approach, and the good thing is a lot of these nutrients have a lot of other beneficial effects on other parts of the body.
The other big thing that people are reading about in the newspaper and they see probably in their own families is this massive increase in type 2 diabetes, adult-onset diabetes and pre-diabetes. People with metabolic syndrome where they have that mid-line gut, they start gaining weight; their sugars aren’t in the diabetic range, but they are a little high, their insulin levels are higher. Well, every study has shown -- and these are huge studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine -- with every 10% above your ideal body weight a person is, the risk of developing and dying from cancer goes up markedly. With a lot of the processed food we are eating today, a lot of the refined sugar, a lot of refined flour, there is just an epidemic of this. So what happens is every time your body is making insulin to metabolize sugar or carbohydrates -- and it has to make more insulin for the refined sugars or the refined carbs, the white flour -- your liver at that time is making something called IGF or Insulin-like Growth Factor that is a huge tumor-promoter. And we know women with the highest circulating insulin levels are much more likely to get breast cancer. Men with the highest circulating insulin levels are much more likely to get prostate cancer, and so that’s another thing that we really work with -- how to eliminate those types of foods from your diet and lower them, and I also use a lot of a drug that is very, very old -- it originally came from an herb -- called Metformin. Metformin originally came from the French lilac; that was an herb that had been used for about 300 years in European folk medicine to treat diabetes. It became a drug in Europe first in 1955 and they noticed over the ensuing decades that people that were on Metformin had 40% less cancer overall than everybody else.
Elyn: You would say too that it was a rather safe drug….
Dr. Gaynor: A very, very safe drug. It’s one of the safest. It’s so amazing because even in low doses it can lower insulin-like growth factor and we use it a lot now for prevention... people that are at higher risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. An amazing, quite surprising study, they did a study that was published in the biggest oncology journal, The Journal of Clinical Oncology, a few years ago, and they just wanted to see how diabetic women with very, very large breast cancers that were too large for either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy that needed to get chemotherapy first to try and shrink it down to make them operable -- they just wanted to see how do diabetic women do with this. So some of the women were on insulin and some were on the newer antidiabetic drugs like Actos and Januvia and some were on the very, very old Metformin. To their surprise, even though they weren’t looking for this, when they went back and analyzed the data they found that the women who happened to be on the Metformin had an almost three-fold increased pathologic complete remission rate with the chemotherapy, compared with the women on either insulin or the other antidiabetic drugs. Pathologic complete remission means when the surgeon went in there to do the surgery, there was no trace even under the microscope of the cancer. That started generating a lot of interest, and it’s since been found that Metformin can turn on a number of very powerful tumor-suppressor genes and it makes your body more efficient at metabolizing sugar so you need less insulin. Less insulin means less insulin-like growth factor, which is a tumor-promoter, being produced.
There are just a number of things you can do on all these different levels. You can optimize your detox system… We haven’t talked about the immune system yet, but that is a huge thing that we can measure ‘cause there’s part of the immune system called your Natural Killer cells that’s your main line of defense against cancer. So you want to keep those strong -- not everybody’s are. There are a number of mushroom extracts that I use -- like about ten: there’s maitake, there’s shiitake; one of the most powerful is chaga -- chaga mushroom. It grows on birch tree bark, and it’s an amazing thing with nature because the birch tree bark contains all these nutrients that are not usable by humans by themselves, but the chaga will extract them and make them into a more usable form, and it has a number of very profound anti-cancer effects.
And then there are other things we can do to keep the immune system strong, other systems strong, even with mushrooms like cordyceps, which is very good for the lungs, and turkey tail, reishi mushroom -- a lot of these are very important. And then another very important part of this whole equation with the immune system and everything is Vitamin D, specifically 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D. Everybody should know their levels. Your T cells, your Natural Killer cells can’t work without enough Vitamin D. We’ve known for years that people with the lowest Vitamin D levels had the highest rates of breast cancer. Another study that came out a few years ago showed that women who were diagnosed with breast cancer … the ones with the lowest Vitamin D3 levels -- 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D levels -- when they were diagnosed had about a 90% increased chance of developing metastatic disease. I mean, that’s huge!
Elyn: It’s just a small thing to do!
Dr. Gaynor: Yeah, It’s just a small thing to do and you’re talking pennies a day for something. But you have to know your level, you can’t guess! Some people don’t absorb it well -- they need a lot of Vitamin D3 -- and some people do absorb it well. But here’s the thing that people need to understand: If you eat a great diet and you’re living like in the New York area, where between November and April we’re not getting much sun so your body is essentially not making any, you need to supplement with it. So if you eat a perfect diet for Vitamin D3, if you’re eating salmon, if you’re eating cottage cheese and enough dairy and everything, but really the most you could get dietarily is 350 units a day. The least you need if you’re living at this latitude, you need about 2,000 a day.
Elyn: Right! Keep in mind, everyone, that that is if you absorb it well, and if you don’t then….
Dr. Gaynor: Especially like me. I’m not a good absorber of Vitamin D, so I have to take 50,000 units a week several weeks a month just to keep the level in the mid-normal range. So everybody’s different.
Elyn: Okay so … you say that most people are walking around with dormant cancer and that the goal is to keep that dormant cancer dormant, and you spoke about the immune system and detoxification, and our glycemic load, and Vitamin D levels. What about inflammation?
Dr. Gaynor: Inflammation is hugely important, and a lot of people know they have inflammation and a lot of people don’t know it. The people that know they have it are people with like irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic arthritis, or people that have had recurrent bouts of Lyme disease, people that have had recurrent infections somewhere in their body, or they’re diabetic. A lot of people know they have inflammation. There are very good markers we can measure in the blood. A lot of people don’t know they have inflammation but they do, and sometimes it’s due to bacterial overgrowth in the stomach, sometimes it’s due to leaky gut, sometimes it’s due to too much caffeine and alcohol, or other toxins. You can measure with C-reactive Protein and other inflammatory markers -- very important to know because the two strongest promoters of tumors are produced when there’s underlying inflammation, one is called NFkappaB and the other one is AP-1.
Inflammation in general can promote cancer, and that’s one of the things about cancer treatment when we use chemo -- and I am an integrative oncologist, not alternative (integrative means I’m using the best that modern medicine has to offer) -- but I’m also realizing that most of what we call modern traditional allopathic medicine is just treating the symptom. If you have a stomach ulcer you get Nexium or Prilosec, but you’re not looking at the underlying cause so much. Why does a person have a stomach ulcer? If you have breast cancer, you may go to a surgeon, have surgery, radiation, chemo, but it’s not looking [at] why. What are the underlying causes? Why did that cancer develop in the first place? So integrativists really believe that we have to treat the symptom, we have to use chemo to a degree, but we also have to do everything to look at the underlying imbalances and immunity, and inflammation, and abnormal angiogenesis, and those types of things.
Because one of the biggest things that creates inflammation is when you’re getting chemo you’re killing cancer cells. They break apart and they are releasing all these inflammatory markers and mediators -- that’s been proven. The other thing that chemo has been sorely ineffective at is getting rid of cancer stem cells. Those are the earliest types of cells. In fact, sometimes after chemo you have more cancer stem cells. Two things that have been found to be helpful in eliminating that -- there is good data for that -- [are] turmeric or curcumin as well as Metformin. Really, the more comprehensive integrative approach, I think that’s definitely the future and clearly the goal, if you are lucky enough to be able to choose that -- or to never get cancer in the first place.
Elyn: Well, of course! But if you do have it, you make a really big point here -- and I want to really stress that to everybody. The difference between oncology and integrative oncology is that oncology is mostly treating your symptoms, and integrative oncology is treating the symptoms but is also getting to the reason why you have the symptom and getting to the root of the problem, and if you don’t...you’re just going to forever be reacting to the results of it.
Dr. Gaynor: Right! Whatever the underlying causes that created that initial cancer, if you leave those there, it’s just something else that’s going to develop.
Elyn: Right, it’s just going to grow. Okay, so any more on dormant cancer? You know we should probably talk a little bit more about the changes that we see from environmental toxins. Your BPAs and your things like that are also creating dormant cancer -- the beginning stages of it.
Dr. Gaynor: Well, that’s a very important point…. It’s affecting our children to a huge degree also. I can’t tell you how many woman, literally almost on a daily basis, that have breast cancer come in and tell me they’ve got an autistic child at home or a child with severe learning disability… it’s like really amazing when you really talk to people. So we’re definitely not living on the same planet that our grandparents were living on. Since World War II when all these things started coming out to make our lives better and improve everything, there have been a lot of unintended consequences to all these environmental toxins, the dioxins, the toluenes, the benzenes, and you find a lot of these even when you do breast biopsies and in breast milk. A lot is in there. So that’s a very, very worrisome type of thing, and when they do biopsies from surgery, even plastic surgery, and you look in the fat, most people are carrying between 80 and 100 really serious environmental toxins in their body -- this is a new phenomenon. There’s all these neurotoxins in the environment. Risk of autism...in the 1970s, it was one in 10,000 children; now it’s about one in 150 children, so I mean the incidence has gone up. Childhood brain tumors -- there are a lot of toxins. You just mentioned BPA, which is found in plastic softeners,...in baby bottle nipples, or used in baby bottles, toys, and water bottles. BPA has been linked to a number of different disorders.
Elyn: Before we leave that one, though, I just want to say one thing. Everyone is so aware [of] BPA in plastic bottles -- “Oh gosh, don’t use those plastic bottles” -- but never did I ever think that it’s on toilet paper or copy paper and other products like that, which I think is something important to mention.
Dr. Gaynor: It is! Because your skin -- you get as many toxins in through your skin as you do in the air you breathe and the food and water you are swallowing. So that is a very important point. So you really want to go with like green products as much as you can, nontoxic products. I think it’s best to use everything as much as you can in your bathroom, on your lawn, green -- it’s natural. Because you want to minimize the toxic load as much as you can, and the CDC has published data that 18% of the children in this country now either have a severe learning disability, developmental disability, or emotional disability before they’re 18 -- it’s almost one in five children. There are definitely underlying reasons for this and then if you look at the epidemic even of infertility, a lot of these chemicals are endocrine disrupting chemicals. There are two pesticides plus BPA that are currently in use now, and they recently did a study called “Epigenetic Reprogramming” that was on mice that was done at the University of Washington. And with each of these chemicals, when the female mouse who was pregnant was exposed at relatively low doses to this, going up four generations there was significantly decreased sperm counts in the male offspring after exposure to that. There’s an epidemic of infertility amongst people today too. None of these issues -- autism, learning disabilities, cancer -- none of these conditions are happening in a vacuum. There are very common reasons and exposures that I believe are at least in large part creating those epidemics.
Elyn: I would say that probably none of us are deficient in drugs, but we are overly exposed to toxins, like you say, that our grandparents and their grandparents were never exposed to, and on a continuous and daily basis.
Dr. Gaynor: Yeah. The thing is that it’s gonna be very important to change the standards that we use for a new drug to come to market -- they have to prove that it’s safe. But before they release a chemical into the environment -- like the DDT in the 1950’s, they started finding out that was contributing to breast cancer but it wasn’t banned until 1971 after millions more people were exposed, and that type of thing happens all the time. For those things you just have to wait for proof of harm. But by waiting for proof of harm, millions and millions of people have already been exposed to it…. The whole standard needs to be changed, it needs to be proven safe before millions of people are exposed to it.
Elyn: Or I think we should... while it’s great to spend time and money on the drug therapies, I think we need to fix the problem that we’re using all these drugs to fix. That’s really what we need -- to go back to there -- but the devastation you see everyday from the harm of all these environmental toxins is horrendous. Let’s go to some current events for a moment. Lately, there has been a lot of talk about antioxidants. What do you think of all this nonsensical bashing of antioxidants? Here we just talked about all these incredible antioxidants that we can use and then you pick up the newspaper and it says “Oh my gosh! Don’t do that! Don’t take Vitamin E... don’t take any of those vitamins.”
Dr. Gaynor: Yeah, the funny part of that is most of the things they are saying not to take, I agree with. Because what they’re looking at are not things that are based in any science anyway; most of them are just synthetic antioxidants. God knows where they came from or where they were manufactured or sourced [or] what country. I would never recommend those to anybody anyway, yet that’s what everybody is looking at. The example like with beta carotene in lung cancer and smokers… they found several years ago synthetic beta carotene [in] people who were smokers...actually increased their chance of getting lung cancer. Well, you wouldn't want to just take beta carotene as a supplement anyway ‘cause there are number of carotenoids….
Everything that comes out of the ground that is a fruit or a vegetable, has hundreds... each one has hundreds of antioxidants. But they do all these other things besides being antioxidants. They support immune function, they support apoptosis -- the normal death of cancer cells, they support detoxification. Even the word “antioxidant” is so nonsensical because it’s just looking at like one one-thousandth of what a substance does.… Even when they look at Vitamin E, mainly they are looking at Alpha Tocopherol, which is the least effective part of Vitamin E, and they’ll say, well, that doesn’t do any good and maybe it does harm. Who would use one part of Vitamin E? That would almost be like if you say, “okay, I’m gonna give you a carrot,” but you skin the carrot and you just give somebody the carrot skin and say, well they’re not really getting any benefit from the carrot. It makes no sense. The mixed tocopherols have a huge activity like they’re found in nature, like in rice bran and everything. It’s so dishonest in a way because, one, there’s no such thing as something that’s just an antioxidant unless you want to separate it like they’ve done in the studies-- beta carotene or alpha tocopherol, which nobody should be taking really anyway. I don’t know why they would ever want to do that.
And a lot of the things that I use… like let’s say if you take black raspberry powder, that’s a very concentrated form of black raspberry. It’s all organic [and] loaded with hundreds of different nutrients. It has some antioxidants, but it’s from a whole food, and it does all these things for tumor-suppressor genes; it does all these things for your cardiovascular system. It’s just a lack of any understanding of nutrition by the people who are doing the studies, and then the people that are reporting them are not questioning it. They don’t have the background, the scientific background, to really understand why you would want to take those anyway, and why would you think even at the beginning that those would be beneficial? People write books about it -- that antioxidants are harmful and everything. Yes, well those particular antioxidants that are given in a vacuum that are purely synthetic -- who would expect them to be good in the first place? But to make that an indictment….
Elyn: To the layman that just confuses everybody so much because they’ll say “Well look, they just came out on prostate cancer, and why in the world would you wanna take these and wanna eat any of these?”…. And what if you’re taking garbage -- no, you don’t wanna take that! As you said, if you’re taking the quality of the whole synergistic combination then, yes, you do wanna take these things.
Dr. Gaynor: Absolutely! The whole myth about this -- because it’s almost like a scare tactic for people and it’s based just on complete misunderstanding of the scientific literature... the studies were done by people with clearly no good understanding of how nutrition really works in the body, and then it just gets picked up by the media, probably because it sells newspapers.
Elyn: The studies don’t have the best intentions. They are intentionally trying to bash the use of any kind of supplements and antioxidants. So what about all the discussion on the value of intravenous Vitamin C? Do you want to share your thoughts on the efficacy of that?
Dr. Gaynor: It can be very useful in conjunction with other things; I don’t use it by itself. But it’s very interesting the way the whole vitamin C... it’s almost the continuation of what we were just talking about, like just sort of taking things out. There was a scientist named Marckini who published a paper. He looked at a substance -- vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid or ascorbate -- and so he wanted to see what happens if you incubated cancer cells with vitamin C, but he didn’t use vitamin C -- he used a different variety of vitamin C that had an extra hydroxyl group on it. It was a 25 hydroxy vitamin C, which you can’t even go out and buy. The cancer cells proliferated more with that substance, so it got published and everybody thought that “Oh! Vitamin C isn’t good for cancer”. Then it was pointed out to him [that] he didn’t use ascorbic acid or Vitamin C -- he used a different chemical, and so he wrote a retraction to that paper which the editors wouldn’t publish, and so it was sort of like out there that vitamin C wasn’t good for cancer. But the fact of the matter is a lot of research has been done and has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing how cancer cells will selectively take up vitamin C because it’s so similar to glucose. If you look at the structure of glucose, which is a simple sugar, or you look at vitamin C, they almost look identical. So vitamin C is taken up by normal cells like sugar would be, and it’s metabolized via something called the Krebs Cycle [and] used to make energy. But cancer cells...don’t metabolize via the Krebs Cycle. They work in a more anaerobic (or without oxygen) environment. So they take up selectively the vitamin C because it looks so much like glucose, but they can’t metabolize it. They metabolize it via something called the Cori Cycle, so it turns into hydrogen peroxide, which is toxic to the cells. That’s why when you do a PET scan on people -- a PET scan is just radiolabeled glucose, cancer cells like glucose more, they take it up more -- that’s why anywhere there’s cancer in the body, you can see it because it looks darker. So it’s very similar to what is happening to vitamin C: The cancer cells selectively take it up, they can’t metabolize it like normal cells, it turns into hydrogen peroxide and it can kill them. So that can be a very useful adjunct.
Elyn: Great! So we talked about a lot of information today, and I was just thinking if you can give people your top favorite five foods or nutrients...maybe your five, or how many you want to pick, the best key things for people to eat who have cancer.
Dr. Gaynor: Well, if you already have cancer, you want to make sure that you’re not getting too much white sugar and white flour, so what I like in place of those… you can have honey, you can have fruit because fruit has a lot more glycemic index. A lot of cancer patients are under the mistaken impression that they can’t have fruit ‘cause it’s the same, but it’s not the same. It has a lot lower glycemic index. There’s a good sugar substitute called coconut crystals, which has a lower glycemic index. For breads, I would avoid white flour. I like sprouted whole grain breads like Ezekial because that has enzymes, so that’s a lot easier to digest and you still get the benefit from some of the grains. Same if you’re going to have any pasta, go with the whole grain pasta like brown rice or semolina or buckwheat.
The other thing… the best cooking oils would be like coconut oil or grapeseed oil ‘cause they’re not damaged by heat. I think people should have olive oil every day. Olive oil has a lot of very important nutrients, but it’s not for cooking with, it’s for pouring on salad or after something has already been cooked. Also, nuts are a very good source of protein except for peanuts that sometimes can promote inflammation and can be contaminated with fungus. But I like all the tree nuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts. I think people can have chicken, fish, turkey. You can cook with the skin but always make sure you take the skin off. The cruciferous vegetables -- broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage -- [are] loaded with anti-cancer nutrients, and then anything with curry in it, anything with turmeric in it. There’s one paper I give to patients entitled “How many ways does curry kill cancer?” It’s about 25 different ways.
Elyn: Fantastic! So you as an integrative oncologist spend an incredible amount of time with each patient on their first visit. So maybe if we could get to know a little about the first visit...if you could describe what happens during the typical first visit.
Dr. Gaynor: Well, that’s usually about two and half to three hours. It’s like any academic oncologist at first, you know I’m with Cornell. But I have my own office... I just keep it very stress-free in there; there’s sounds of running water and there’s very relaxing music throughout literally every inch of that office, so it’s a very relaxing environment that I’ve created. I have a lot of aromatherapy and things like that happening there. So even when people are getting their infusions, it’s very, very different. But I’ll review somebody’s CAT scans, the pathology. I do a lot of work with molecular testing and molecular fingerprinting of tumors, because we can get huge amounts of information about other types of therapies that may be beneficial. So I usually order that on people because that will literally tell us on a genetic level what the cancer is more likely to respond to or not. So we’ll get that arranged. [With] a lot of people we’ll discuss the therapeutic options, whether it’s chemo, whether it’s targeted therapy. I do a lot of work with what we call low dose metronomic chemotherapy, which is really one of the newest things in oncology, because that can be very antiangiogenic and help cancer cells die normally without a lot of the side effects. So that can be used either for maintenance or after somebody’s had a lot of treatment.
Then I’ll talk with people a lot about nutrition. We do a whole battery looking at the vitamin levels, mineral levels, immune functions, inflammatory markers, circulating tumor cells, and really talk about what types of nutrients as far shakes, as far as various supplements that are in freeze-dried powders, things like that… What they can add, because there are certain things like certain algae, seaweeds, grass juices, mushrooms, you just can’t get in a western diet no matter how well you eat; we’ll talk a lot about that. Some nutrients can be given IV If it needs to be more effective and quicker and in higher doses like IV glutathione. I do a lot of work with people with stress reduction, with meditation, with yoga breathing, with music therapy…. Going to see a medical oncologist can be one of the most stressful days of a person’s life, and towards the end of it I’ll teach people certain types of music therapy, and invariably people will open their eyes at the end of it and say “this is the most relaxed I’ve ever been,” and so when you think about it it’s pretty amazing that on the most stressful day of their life, they’re the most relaxed.
Elyn: That’s right! Well, I think it’s great. One of the most eye-opening statements you made to me on my first visit was, “Elyn, if I had met you ten years ago, likely you wouldn’t have had breast cancer.” So therefore, if we can prevent cancer, we can use that very same road map to help defeat it. So, ladies and gentlemen, know while you are not responsible for your cancer, you are now empowered to beat and defeat that cancer. There is a really strong difference -- and I think you made a great description of why and the time involved -- between integrative oncology [and conventional oncology]. People will say “Oh! it’s just so expensive,” but you’re not going for 15 minutes -- that’s what I try to explain to the listeners. This is not a 15-minute “hi-how-are-you-let’s-take-your-blood-pressure-and-there’s-the-door-and-continue-to-take-your- medicines.” It’s just so much more, really to help us defeat cancer and live a very healthy life.
Dr. Gaynor: And that’s why so many of my patients, literally thousands over the last 25 years, have told me that having had cancer, in retrospect, was one of the best things that ever happened to them -- ‘cause they were able to change their whole life, the way they felt, the perspective about their life, how to live each day. It can actually be a blessing.
Elyn: In some ways it certainly can. Nobody wants to have cancer, but it does give you a chance to say “Oh God!”... and people just plain feel better because they've given up a lot of things that made them sick on a daily basis, they changed those things, so they feel better. So thank you, Dr. Gaynor. We’re out of time, but thank you for all you do to help all of us who one way or another have managed to meet that formidable foe and are eager to defeat him. So thank you for joining us. This has been Survive and Live Well: Tips to Treat and Beat Cancer….